Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Women In Comedy: Kathy Griffin

Kathy Griffin is one of those people you're kind of told not to like. After all, her female-stereotype-of-a-media-driven image (the annoying, yappy broad with the abrasive laugh) isn't particularly endearing. And Kathy, to her credit really, hasn't bothered to dispel it by attempting a quieter, gentler, femmier persona. Instead, she embraces her abrasiveness- remember how like every male comedian ever except for Bob Newhart has used a consciously abrasive personality? But the point is, she's really not that abrasive and is actually totally funny, and a total feminist too!

Of course, in our patriarchal culture, straight men are not supposed to like Kathy Griffin, which is why she is supposed to appeal to gays and women. I found this one photo of Kathy online with the caption "You can't see her penis," I guess because she is...not hot enough to be in the spotlight? How come she felt so bad about her looks she got tons of plastic surgery but Jay Leno has been on TV for years looking like that?

Anyway, as previously mentioned on this blog, I really hate stand-up, finding it dull and lame and joke-y in this sad set-up way, but Kathy Griffin's set-up is really great! (And she is better than Chelsea Lately, who I feel has more than a touch of internalized patriarchy, man) And it's great because she just tells mean, funny stories about celebrities. No puns, no exaggerated capering, she just dryly comments on the retardation of fame. It's like talking to a hilarious and well-connected friend. In many ways, I think she subverts the whole masculine idea of stand-up and comedy by being so chatty yet sharp and rejecting 90% of what stand-up comedy is about.

Also, her show, My Life on the D-List, is great. She really makes an effort to include female/feminist comedians, and how could you say no to an episode where she goes shopping with Margaret Cho and Cyndi Lauper or re-enacts the opening of Golden Girls with Betty White and her mom? Here are some hilarious photos of her dressing up to hang with Paris Hilton:

She is also constantly getting in trouble and being banned from The View and stuff for going too far, which always makes for a funny anecdote about Barbara Walters. At a New Year's Eve telecast:

"Shut up!" she yelled at a heckler. "You know what, screw you! I'm working! Why don't you get a job, buddy!"

Then the "My Life on the D-List" star added: "You know, I don't go to your job and knock the dick out of your mouth."

CNN deleted the exchange from recorded repeats of the telecast, but the original airing had already made its way onto popular file-sharing sites like YouTube.


Here is a really amazing discussion from Marie Claire about female comedians. Please read it. Kathy talks about how:

After Suddenly Susan, I went to every network and said, "What if you put four funny chicks together? Not newcomers, but four women who are proven in television: me, Jennifer Coolidge, Megan Mullally, Cheri Oteri, or Molly Shannon..." And the network people said, "What about Carmen Electra?

Can you imagine a show like that? Can you imagine?!

Here's a few more interesting quotes:

RIVERS: I was the first permanent guest host they ever had on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Then one day, a friend of mine who was the vice president at NBC got an internal memo saying, "When Johnny leaves, here are the 10 people to replace him." And I wasn’t on the list — it was all men.

GRIFFIN: The last time I was on Leno, he turned to me during the commercial break and said, "Why aren’t you up for my job? You should get a late-night show on Fox." And I said, "Jay, I’m very flattered, but tell that to [Fox president of alternative entertainment] Mike Darnell." Have you met Mike Darnell? He’s like 4'11" and puts on shows like Joe Millionaire. That’s who I’m dealing with.

CAROL BURNETT: When I started, the head of CBS said, "Variety is more of a man’s field: Sid Caesar, Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle ... We’ve got a great sitcom pilot you could shoot. It’s called Here’s Agnes." I could just picture it: "Heeeeere’s Agnes." Oh, God.

Anyway, this discussion is really interesting, and Kathy Griffin is great. In a perfect world, she would have a show with Cheri Oteri and all that. Like, I still can't quite get over that Jimmy Fallon has a late-night network show. If there's any proof that comedy is a lame boy's club, that is it.


Nickey said...

I feel the same about stand-up, it does feel weirdly embarrassing to watch! I recently went to a comedy show with a friend who swore the headliner was hilarious, and there were five guys before him, with only one being funny. He was a queer african-american that really played it serious and was hilarious- but the other 4 were white guys that relied on the same trite sexist, racist bullshit. One made a joke about how if you talked to women about duvets they would love you because they would then think "he likes what I like! he knows what a duvet is!" Hardy fucking har. And one had the audacity to make a joke about how "all nationalities- I mean, uh, ethnicities, er, races- have something they're good at. Like no one would say hey asian guys, let's have a swim meet." What the fuck!? There were practically crickets in the audience after that bomb. Anyway! Then the headliner was this guy Hari Kondabolu, who was truly very funny and made a lot of relevant, non-offensive jokes about race relations and class and not a single joke about how women are stupid. Here is his website, you should check it out!

So ultimately, what I realized is that it's not the stand-up is inherently embarrassing, it's that about 90% of it is simply not funny. But usually female comedians and people-of-color comedians are much funnier because (unfortunately) they have to try SO MUCH harder than white guys to get anywhere in the comedy world.

Anyway, great post, and I'm glad you're back!!

Simone said...

You should really check out Maria Bamford! She's really fucking funny. Jen turned me on to her.

And, okay, you should also watch "spring breakdown," with parker posey, rachel dratch, and amy pohler. And for the LOVE OF GOD, watch "Parks and Recreation"!!!!! It's on hulu! This season is fucking HILARIOUS. So freaking good.

So those are my suggestions if you want to watch some funny ladies be funny.

M said...

maria bramford is okay (though i do find her voice/mousy thing kind of grating) but i think the main thing is that i just don't really like stand-up as a medium. i'm sure i would like her much more in a sitcom or something. i find stand-up awkward. it's weird to me that someone memorized jokes to re-tell to an audience over and over. i don't think it's a funny format.

okay, i will watch parks and recreation on the regular teevee!!!

Gerard said...

Gary Shandling is another one of those male comedians who has had an absurd amount of plastic surgery and NO ONE calls him on his shit. Seriously, google image search that shit.

And the thing is, I respect Shandling for the most part as a comedian. However, if the universe were a totally just place, he would have received the same treatment as Joan Rivers. In fact, should he get it worse? It's much more unheard of for a man to go so far....

krissy said...

I'm de-lurking to say I LOVE Kathy Griffin! She is so funny. I'm also not a big fan of stand-up but had an opportunity to see Kathy G. in August and I swear it was the best 2 hours I'd spent in a really long time. I laughed the entire time, start to finish. Love her!

Anonymous said...

So glad to see this post! We need to seriously talk about "Whip It" and Kristen Wiig???!!! I think she was totally underused in Adventureland (that movie was filled with lameo half-baked lady roles) but in "Whip It" I think she shows some range... she's also the funniest person on SNL right now.
Glad to see you posting again!
xo julia

Simone said...

WHIP IT IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER. and if mary hasn't seen it yet, after i have told her many many times to do so, i will have to kick her ass when i see her in december.

Lil' Meggy said...

Mary, you are so smart and I agree with you almost 100% on all of this, everything. And to chime in on the whole Whip It! thing, it was a seriously good movie and pretty damn smart and funny for Drip Barrymore's directorial debut and it greatly disappoints me that it kinda stunk at the box office. I guess the public doesn't want to watch empowering movies about young women directed and produced by women. And Kristen Wiig really carried her role/the movie along well.

M said...

thanks, meghan! i don't know what it is with movies like whip it- if it's how they are marketed or what. there is certainly no niche for empowering/comedy movies about teen girls like there is for teen boys. it really sucks that every middle-school age girl didn't see it, though. maybe it will become a cult classic a la times square.

tshirts said...

I don't know who composed this piece about Kathy Griffin, but like, it was like, totally like, a girl like from like totally 8th grade wrote it.

Mary said...

What an insult! There's always the New Yorker for people like you. They have a really sophisticated writing style for sophisticated, college-educated minds.